Cardinal Sin Retires from Manila Pulpit of Power

MANILA (Reuters) - Cardinal Jaime Sin, an outspoken cleric who helped topple Philippine leaders but alienated some of the faithful with frequent forays into politics, is retiring at 75 with the Vatican's blessing.

Sin's departure was expected after his birthday on August 31 but there had been speculation Pope John Paul would ask him to stay on as Archbishop of Manila and the most influential churchmen in a nation of 65 million Roman Catholics.

"As I enter a new chapter in my twilight years, I can say with gratitude that I have given my very best to God and country," Sin said in a statement.

Sin played a pivotal role in ousting late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 when his radio broadcasts sparked a million-strong popular uprising.

He again marshaled the masses to hound President Joseph Estrada to the same fate in 2001 and rarely shied away from battles with the government about corruption, contraception or poverty.

The Vatican said the Pope granted Sin's request to retire because of his advanced age. He will be replaced by Gaudencio Rosales, now the Archbishop of Lipa, south of Manila.

Hospitalized briefly in March after suffering a seizure while at prayer, Sin has a long-standing kidney ailment.

He acted internationally as a diplomatic broker seeking to improve relations between the Vatican and communist countries, but is a household name at home -- often for criticism he provoked, that the church meddling in affairs of state.

"Sometimes he was a politician," said Benedict Renteuter, a messenger in Manila's business district. "If he is a priest, he should be neutral, not in politics." Political analyst Nelson Navarro said Sin had politicized his office and polarized the people.

"He played a crucial role in the restoration of democracy when he urged the people to fight the Marcoses," Navarro told Reuters. "But after that, he became a power player."

In 1994, Sin mobilized hundreds of thousands of people to denounce a state policy encouraging the use of condoms and the pill to curb a booming population.

In 1996, when President Fidel Ramos proposed a tough security law to fight extremism, Sin denounced it as state terrorism. The proposal was shelved.

"The church has to participate in the lives of people," Sin told Reuters in an interview in 1999. "There is a separation of church and state, but this separation does not mean isolation. It means critical collaboration for the common good."

But the strident toughness can hide a jocular manner.

The cardinal is often the first to make fun of the ironies of his name, welcoming visitors to his "House of Sin."

Asked about rumors that he might become a Pope one day, he replied: "That wouldn't do. Then we would have Sin in Rome."

15/09/2003

Bron : Reuters

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